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Originally published Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 12:28 PM

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KOMO-TV's Goertzen released from hospital after brain-tumor surgery

Kathi Goertzen, longtime KOMO-TV anchor who underwent her sixth surgery for an aggressive brain tumor last week, was released from the hospital Saturday morning.

Seattle Times health reporter

Kathi Goertzen, longtime KOMO-TV anchor who underwent her sixth surgery for an aggressive brain tumor last week, was released from the hospital Saturday morning.

Holly Gauntt, KOMO-TV news director, said Goertzen, groggy and tired, was happy she will be able to sleep in her own bed. "Her husband said she's not getting a whole lot of sleep in the hospital because they wake her up all the time," Gauntt said.

Surgeons said the 10-hour-plus operation on Wednesday went well, but the damaged facial nerve that caused her smile to droop likely would not recover.

"That's been an issue for several months," Gauntt said, but it didn't stop Goertzen from working.

This past week, Goertzen told Gauntt she wanted to show viewers and other fans what her face looked like. "She came to me and said, 'It's time; it's time that people see what happened,' " Gauntt recalled.

Goertzen was hoping the surgery would help repair what she called her "crooked, sagging face." But, Gauntt said, "she knew there was a chance that that facial nerve would be gone." Doctors told her it won't come back.

At home, Goertzen's husband, Rick Jewett, said her sister and mother were helping care for her. "We have a really positive attitude around here," he said.

He said his wife has been buoyed by all the supportive messages on her Facebook page. "They're incredible," he said. "There are consistently really beautiful things that have come her way."

Having just come home, she is weak and wobbly and on big doses of steroids to keep swelling down, he said. In addition to her facial nerve, she is having some trouble with one eye, said Jewett, who said he expects recovery from the long, complex surgery will take time. "Having gone through this, it's a roller-coaster," he said. "This is when the hard part begins."

Having a droopy smile is tough for a TV personality, Gauntt said, but Goertzen has many talents.

"Kathi, one way or another, will always have a role at KOMO," Gauntt said. "She is a unique reporter."

Doctors said they removed all of a troublesome new tumor, which was growing rapidly from the top of the old tumor. The old tumor had been stabilized, said Dr. Marc Mayberg, co-director of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute and the lead surgeon for Goertzen's latest surgery.

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But the new tumor was attached to her brainstem and to many important cranial nerves, which is why the surgery took more than 10 hours, Mayberg said.

Such a surgery is always a delicate balancing act between trying to get the tumor out while trying to preserve critical functions, said Dr. Douglas Backous, another member of the surgery team.

The surgical team, which also included Dr. Greg Foltz, also removed three other tumors in other areas of Goertzen's brain. Mayberg said it's likely she will have to undergo more surgery in the future.

"She's incredibly tough," he said. "She really has the right attitude. She takes one day at a time, makes a lot of each day. It's really inspirational for everybody in the team to work with her."

Considering the difficulty of the surgery, Gauntt said, everything went very well for Goertzen.

"She came out of this with a huge victory, a huge victory."

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com

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